September 11, 2013 / 10:59 AM / 4 years ago

REUTERS SUMMIT-Reckitt Benckiser hungry for new health deals

LONDON, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Reckitt Benckiser Group will be a major player in a coming shakeout of the global consumer health industry and has the capability to do sizeable deals, according to its chief executive.

Speaking at the Reuters Consumer and Retail Summit on Wednesday, CEO Rakesh Kapoor predicted that the industry, which covers vitamins to over-the-counter medicines to condoms, will see a wave of deals.

"Consumer health is one of the most fragmented markets in the world, and that is a real issue-stroke-opportunity," Kapoor said. "This fragmentation will result in consolidation - the only question is who, when and how."

Kapoor, who has been in the top job for just over two years, added that: "My personal opinion is that RB will be in the camp of aggregators or consolidators."

British-based RB is still paying down debt from last year's $1.4 billion purchase of vitamin and supplements maker Schiff Nutrition, but could still do more.

"We have the capability to do interesting size M&A," he said.

Large pharmaceutical companies currently dominate the consumer health market. But they are increasingly pruning their portfolios to unlock shareholder value.

Pfizer has led they way in such divestments but others are following suit, with Bristol-Myers Squibb selling RB the rights to market some of its non-prescription remedies in Latin America earlier this year.

GlaxoSmithKline this week agreed to sell its Lucozade and Ribena soft drinks to Suntory Beverage & Food , while some other drugmakers with consumer healthcare brands, including Novartis, are reviewing their portfolios.

RB still gets most of its sales and profits from cleaners and disinfectants like Lysol, Finish and Cillit Bang, but a string of deals in the health sector over the last decade means consumer healthcare now accounts for about a quarter of revenue.

Over-the-counter health products tap into longer-term consumer and demographic trends such as aging populations, ballooning healthcare costs, and more interest in wellness.

In the past decade, the company was largely an acquirer of businesses, with some of the biggest deals being Boots Healthcare International in 2006, Adams Pharmaceutical in 2008, and Durex condom maker SSL in 2010. But in the future, there should be divestitures as well, Kapoor said.

"Our next 10 years, in my opinion, will be a combination of the two," he said.

RB has two non-core businesses selling mustard and sauces, and a prescription drug business selling a treatment for heroine and other opioids.

(For other news from the Reuters Global Consumer and Retail Summit, click here)

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For more summit stories click (Editing by Jane Merriman)

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